AGs from 24 states threaten to sue over Joe Biden’s vaccine requirement; Cuba vaccinates 2-year-olds: Latest COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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Twenty-four Republican attorneys general signed a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday threatening litigation against the president’s requirement for employees of businesses with 100 or more workers to be either vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing.

The prosecutors, led by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, called the requirement “disastrous and counterproductive.” The prosecutors said the requirement would “drive further skepticism” about vaccines and cause some Americans to leave the job market, including healthcare workers.

The letter was also signed by the attorneys general in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The letter comes after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Tuesday filed a legal challenge to the federal requirement, calling it an overreach. Brnovich’s office filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona seeking a ruling that declares the new federal policies unconstitutional. The Attorney General’s Office said the lawsuit was the first of its kind filed in the U.S.

Also in the news:

►The White House offered to connect Nicki Minaj with one of the Biden administration’s doctors to address her questions about the COVID-19 vaccine after the Trinidadian-born rapper’s erroneous tweet alleging the vaccine causes impotence went viral.

►The boards of the San Francisco Bay Area’s two largest school districts – West Contra and Oakland – are set to vote next week on whether to mandate vaccinations against COVID-19 for all staff and students age 12 and older.

►Chinese health officials say more than 1 billion people have been fully vaccinated in the world’s most populous country. That represents 72% of its 1.4 billion people.

►Russian President Vladimir Putin says dozens of his staff have been infected with the coronavirus and he’ll continue his self-isolation because of the outbreak. Putin, who said he tested negative, was previously fully vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V.

►Nursing home aides are the most likely staffers to have direct contact with residents but were the least likely workers at the homes to be vaccinated in a July survey, a new study shows

►A federal judge in Florida denied a request by parents of disabled children for a preliminary injunction to block Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on school mask mandates.

►All workers at child care centers in New York state now must wear face coverings under a plan announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

►Chinese health officials say more than 1 billion people have been fully vaccinated in the world’s most populous country.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 41.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 669,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 226.9 million cases and 4.6 million deaths. More than 179 million Americans — 54% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘What we’re reading: The costs of long-haul COVID-19 care and government aid are unknown but experts warn of potential economic woes and long-term financial ramifications. Read more here

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Pfizer CEO urges FDA to approve vaccine booster dose

The head of Pfizer made a pitch for COVID-19 booster shots Thursday, one day before a federal advisory committee is expected to decide whether third shots of coronavirus vaccines are safe and protective against infections.

Dr. Albert Bourla, in an open letter released Thursday, said the amount of time passed since vaccination appears to be a “significant factor” in so-called breakthrough cases of COVID-19, a finding he said supports the important role booster shots can play in helping curb the pandemic.

Bourla said evidence collected from Pfizer’s clinical trial up through six months after the second dose shows the vaccine “continues to be safe, well tolerated, and highly effective in preventing COVID-19, despite the appearance of different variants.”

Some top U.S. officials say it’s time to begin offering third shots to compensate for what appears to be fading protection. Others, such as the director general of the World Health Organization, argue that Americans would benefit far more by getting initial shots to the unvaccinated around the world.

FDA OKs treatments to be used together to prevent COVID after exposure

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded emergency use authorization Thursday to allow two monoclonal antibody treatments to be administered together to prevent infection in high-risk individuals who have been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 or who are at high risk of exposure in an institutional setting, such as a nursing home or prison.

The authorization applies to patients 12 years of age and older who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or are not expected to mount an adequate immune response, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company said in a statement.

“Recent reports suggest that fully vaccinated residents of nursing homes have contracted COVID-19, some of whom became quite ill,” Dr. Myron Cohen, director of UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. “This additional emergency use authorization of monoclonal antibodies for post-exposure prophylaxis in addition to the treatment of COVID-19 offers a significant achievement in the fight against this pandemic.”

Court halts use of COVID-19 health order to expel migrant families

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the U.S. government must stop using a public health order to quickly expel migrants with children who are apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan gave the government two weeks to halt a practice that opponents say is unnecessary and improperly relies on the threat posed by COVID-19 to deprive people of their right to seek asylum in the United States.

Sullivan granted a preliminary injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of migrant families, saying they were likely to succeed on their challenge to the use of the public health law known as Title 42.

Title 42 was invoked early in the pandemic, under President Donald Trump, ostensibly to help control the spread of COVID-19 in detention facilities by turning back migrants encountered by the Border Patrol without giving them a chance to seek to stay in the U.S. by asking for asylum or for some other reason.

Cuba begins vaccinating children as young as 2

Cuba on Thursday began a COVID-19 vaccination campaign for children between the ages of 2 and 10, saying it was necessary to curb the spread of the delta variant.

Cuba has two homegrown vaccines, Abdala and Soberana, that it says are safe and effective. Both require three shots. In previous weeks, the government started vaccinating people between 11 and 18 years old.

Cuba faces a persistent outbreak of COVID-19, putting heavy pressure on medical facilities and compounding economic problems. Hard-hit provinces such as Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila and Cienfuegos have received support from doctors from other areas of the country as well as international donations.

Research connects online learning with nearsightedness in kids

Data suggest that development of nearsightedness in young Chinese schoolchildren may have increased during the COVID-19 outbreak, Chinese researchers say. The study, published Thursday the Journal of the American Medical Association Opthalmology, notes that outdoor activities were limited and digital learning increased during the pandemic.

The percentage of kids who became nearsighted among elementary students in the survey almost doubled from statistics available before the pandemic began, the authors wrote. The issue could affect American kids as well, some experts say.

A journal editorial said the results and those from earlier studies “should prompt parents, schools and governmental agencies to recognize the potential value of providing children with outdoor activity time and monitoring how much time is spent on near work.”

Alaska’s largest hospital enacts crisis standards of care

Overwhelmed by a surge in COVID-19 patients, Alaska’s largest hospital implemented crisis standards of care, prioritizing resources and treatments to those patients who have the potential to benefit the most. 

“While we are doing our utmost, we are no longer able to provide the standard of care to each and every patient who needs our help,” Dr. Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, chief of staff at Providence Alaska Medical Center, wrote in a letter addressed to Alaskans. “The acuity and number of patients now exceeds our resources and our ability to staff beds with skilled caregivers, like nurses and respiratory therapists. We have been forced within our hospital to implement crisis standards of care.”

Idaho public health leaders announced Thursday they, too, have expanded health care rationing statewide amid a massive increase in the number of coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization.

Contributing: The Associated Press